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Women Advised To Avoid Alcohol During Pregnancy

ALAC Advises Women To Avoid Alcohol During Pregnancy


The Alcohol Advisory Council’s (ALAC) advice to pregnant women and those planning to be pregnant is to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The advice comes on the eve of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness day.

“Drinking at any time during pregnancy may affect the normal development of the fetus,” says ALAC Chief Executive Officer Gerard Vaughan. “If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, our advice is to only drink non-alcoholic drinks.”

Research commissioned by ALAC and carried out by the University of Otago showed that many women still believed a small amount of alcohol would not hurt the fetus. The research found only 40 percent of women believed women should abstain altogether from drinking during pregnancy. Half of the women surveyed said one drink or less was safe to be consumed on a typical drinking occasion in pregnancy.

“Many women believe one or two drinks occasionally couldn’t possibly hurt the unborn baby but in fact there is no known safe level of consumption of alcohol for pregnant women. Unfortunately, medical advice on drinking during pregnancy is variable."

The harms that resulted from pre-natal exposure to alcohol range from mild intellectual and behavioural issues to profound disabilities, he said.

“Effects can range from physical signs (face can appear flattened and eyes wide apart) to heart and kidney defects, hearing and sight impairment, and moderate to severe intellectual impairment. Others may suffer lesser effects but can still have trouble learning, controlling impulses, thinking abstractly, getting along with people, paying attention, remembering things and making good judgements – problems that follow them into adulthood.

“FASD does not disappear over time as the damage is permanent, he said. Problems resulting from FASD impact on family relationships, employment and mental health. Research has also shown a relationship between FASD and some people who end up in the Justice System.”

Both ALAC and the Ministry of Health recommend abstinence from alcohol by pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant.

ALAC is also managing an application for the labelling of alcohol beverages with a health advisory notice advising of the dangers of drinking while pregnant. However, without support from the medical profession it was unlikely that labels will achieve a behaviour change in women, he said.

“A clear message must come from the medical profession on the dangers of drinking while pregnant."


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